Interview: Dallas Jenkins
Producer/Director Dallas Jenkins co-founded Jenkins Entertainment with his father, Jerry B. Jenkins, in February, 2000. The fledgling company completed its first independent film, “Hometown Legend,” with the 25-year-old Dallas at the helm as producer.
The younger Jenkins shortly began directing shorts. His “Cliché” was well-acclaimed by FilmThreat.com, and “Midnight Clear,” starring Stephen Baldwin, won a Crystal Heart Award from the Heartland Film Festival and was the San Diego Film Festival’s opening night selection. In 2006 he co-executive produced “Though None Go with Me,” a movie based on his father’s book, that aired on the Hallmark Channel.
Dallas’s full-length feature directing debut came with “Midnight Clear,” a film based on his eponymous short. Its accolades included the Cinequest Film Festival’s award for “Best First Feature” and the Kansas International Film Festival’s “Audience Choice” award. It is currently available on DVD from Lionsgate.
Dallas distinguished himself as a noteworthy director with his second feature, “What If…,” starring Kevin Sorbo, Kristy Swanson, John Ratzenberger, and Debby Ryan to be released next year. He signed to direct the feature film, “Riven,” in 2010.
Dallas kindly answered a few questions for us regarding Kevin and “What If…,” including how we can help spread the word about the film.
SW – Many of Kevin Sorbo’s fans have been following your excellent blog regarding the film’s behind-the-scenes progress, especially via video clips. How did the film come about?
DJ – I met with the producers at Pure Flix Entertainment to talk about ways we might consider working together, and they mentioned this script they were developing that had a similar storyline to movies like “Family Man” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Along with a project I was developing, we thought we should do a two-picture deal. I read the script for “What If…,” liked it a lot, and then worked with them on development of the rewrites as we brought the project closer to what it became. I directed, Pure Flix produced, and the rest is history.
SW – Why did you choose the blog/video route as a marketing tool for the film?
DJ – The idea for the video blog came about awhile ago. I just thought it was something that would be easy to do, but also interesting for film fans. I try to make my personal blog educational as well as entertaining, and nothing would be more educational than to show the nuts-and-bolts of a film actually coming together on set. And if it also raises awareness and builds excitement for the film, then that’s even better! Plus, we can combine it all and put it on the DVD.
SW – How did Kevin become involved?
DJ – My family and Kevin’s family became friends after I met Kevin at a party. We have a lot of the same values and background, and both families have three children (of) similar ages. Kevin and I agreed it’d be fun to work together sometime, but I hadn’t really thought of him much for “What If…” for whatever reason. Eventually, I thought it might be up his alley, so I sent him the script and he loved it. Interestingly, I wasn’t 100% sure how good he’d be, as he’d never really done anything like this. I knew he’d be fine, but after the first day, I was pleasantly surprised at how good he really was. He’s very charming and comfortable on screen, and he’s also got an emotional streak, which his fans will enjoy seeing!
SW – What’s Kevin’s character like and did the two of you collaborate to convey your vision of how he should portray him?
DJ - His character, Ben Walker, is living life as a successful but materialistic businessman with a trophy fiance, and he’s ultra smooth and confident. But, when an angel sends him into an alternative life where he’s now married to his college sweetheart with two kids, he’s way out of his comfort zone, and he screws everything up. His journey is about how he learns to appreciate family and faith, both of which he’d given up on. So, Kevin’s character covers the wide range of emotions and experiences.
Kevin and I didn’t do a ton of preparation before the movie started. We met for lunch and agreed that we wanted it to be real and not exaggerated or silly. Once we started shooting, it was mostly subtle changes here and there. After certain takes, I’d pull him aside and suggest a different idea, or we’d discuss the meaning behind a certain line, but we were really in sync the vast majority of the time, especially after the first few days when he knew I was prepared and could be trusted.
SW – What’s it like working with Kevin?
DJ – He’s really terrific: easy, relaxed, no drama, and a very hard worker. He had a ton of lines in this film, including some big speeches, and he was always prepared and had his lines memorized. He’s also funny and lighthearted, which helps everyone stay relaxed. He also tells tons of stories, which most of the time is good, but sometimes we had to get his attention!
SW – Where is the project now?
DJ – Right now I’m working with the composer on the music, and in mid-December we’ll do the final sound mix. The film should be totally done by the end of the year, and it should be released in the fall of 2010.
SW – How can Kevin’s fans help promote the film?
DJ – Just keep twittering and facebooking about the film, and spread the word. Point people to the production blog, and as we give updates, spread that around. The most important thing will be when we’re finished with the trailer: We need a bunch of people to see it and spread it around!
People can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dallasjenkins, and can become fans of Jenkins Entertainment on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=1527372475#/pages/Jenkins-Entertainment/166069768661?ref=ts.
I give updates regularly at those sites and am always eager to stay in touch with fans of the films.
See the blog for more information: http://whatifmovie.wordpress.com/
(Photos courtesy of Dallas Jenkins)